Memory can be a fickle thing, but there are a few things I know for certain:
- I definitely slayed as that weird 9-year-old singing Sheryl Crow at her school’s talent show.
- The Sox trading Nomar Garciaparra was the most painful moment of my life.
- Mrs. Potato Head tried to murder me at 3.5 years of age.
I don’t take pleasure out of besmirching the good Potato name, but one of their ilk, craftily hidden in a closet in the house my parents had just painstakingly purchased on a quiet suburban street in NJ, tried to cut my life short.
Now I can’t fault my mother for trying to keep me entertained for a few hours while she painted the kitchen cabinets in our new, split-level home. And, let’s be honest, she was probably thinking, “What kind of idiot child is putting items in her mouth past the age of 2?”
Me. I am that idiot child.
But it was the early ’90s; we just beat the Russians, terrorist attacks and market downturns were still years away, a guy who played a mean sax was running for President, the McRib was probably back. The future seemed bright.
We’re in the living room of our new home playing on my great-grandfather’s rug that somehow made it over from Ukraine in the early 1900s and MY JEWISH PAPA ARTHUR DID NOT ESCAPE THE ANNIHILATION OF HIS PEOPLE FOR A POTATO TO TAKE ME OUT, but here we are. The cast of characters are: me, my friend Greg* (my age) and his older sister Amanda* (probably around 7 or 8 years old). And we are playing with this mutant potato-esq creature because it’s the ’90s this toy was HOT…and we probably had nothing else to play with because we JUST MOVED IN and what luck to find a discarded toy hiding in the closet?!
Could no one else really take the children? Who knows.
Anyway the story goes that we are all being silly and I, not one to miss the opportunity for a comedic bit, put the Mrs. Potato Head lips up to my own and somehow managed to swallow them. The lips got lodged in my throat.
All I remember is the sensation of not being able to breathe and panic – even at 3.5, this seemed pretty bad, like, missing the newest episode of Barney bad.
Amanda* had the wherewithal to stroll into the kitchen and calmly say to my mom, “Meredith can’t breathe.” Thankfully Amanda* was there or Greg* would have left me for dead, merrily playing with the now lip-less female spud.
Amanda* went on to become a surgeon and I’d like to think it was me and not her very accomplished, medical-practicing mother, who inspired her to go into the field.
So my mom did what any quick-thinking woman does without any training in CPR/First Aid and stuck her damn finger down my little baby throat.
I feel like I don’t have to spell out the issue here in that the lips could have gone further in the wrong direction. But, clearly they didn’t and, fortunately for you I am still sucking air to this day.
What’s funny about memory is while most of the trauma is neatly blocked out, I distinctly remember that afterwards someone ran out to the A&P to get me ice pops for my scratched throat and chardonnay for my mom (probably – a wild guess). We sat on the front stoop of our new home and watched my friends practice cartwheels on the brilliantly green grass while I smugly licked a Mickey Mouse orange-flavored ice pop, probably not realizing that this unexpected mid-afternoon sugary confection was the direct result of my near death experience and a healthy dose of mothering guilt. I don’t remember my mom in this situation, but I imagine she was either sitting next to me examining my every breath or she was inside with goblet of Chard enduring a lecture from her nurse BFF about the dangers of sticking her fingers down my throat to remove an object.
She got certified in CPR/First Aid the next week.
But at that point Mrs. Potato Head sensed we were on to her. She knew a loss when she saw one, so she moved on to terrorize other unsuspecting children like a character in an R.L. Stine book (wasn’t the ventriloquist series in a similar vein?). Maybe an ear or her husband’s stash would work next time. If she could only find a next time.
Or she was promptly thrown out with the trash.
She was definitely trashed.
(And yes, I do believe her gender-neutral switch a few years ago was an attempt to mask her identity to get back to true passion of slaying unsuspecting children. But that is just my unsubstantiated conspiracy theory and we know Americans LOVE a conspiracy theory.)
*Names have been changed to protect identity, but really, who doesn’t want to be associated with what reads like a ’90s urban legend?
*I was too lazy to check with other said characters so, fake names it is!